Wuhan virus: Students, MOE school staff returning from China to take 14-day mandatory leave of absence

All students and school staff who returned from China in the past 14 days will have to take 14 days’leave of absence, as a precautionary measure against the Wuhan virus, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday morning (Jan 27).

The move will apply to those in Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, special education schools, as well as junior colleges and polytechnics.

It includes Millenia Institute and the Institute of Technical Education.

The same will apply to staff and pupils from preschools, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.

This means that those who arrived in Singapore on Jan 14 will only be able to return to school 15 days after their return – that is, Jan 29 – if they are well.

And if they arrived in Singapore on Monday, they can return to school only on Feb 11.

“We want to minimise the risk of more imported cases,” Mr Ong said. “We want to take the initiative to protect the young ones.”

The move is expected to affect an estimated 800 students returning from China from around mid-January, who will be asked to stay at home.

During that time, students will take part in home-based learning.

The ministers were part of a press conference on Monday morning, attended by several other fourth-generation ministers.

Mr Ong estimated that on average, two to three students in every school will be affected.

He added that this is a “fairly manageable number” compared to Hong Kong, where the total figure runs into the thousands.

He said his ministry will be in contact with private institutions, such as international schools, to implement similar measures.

“I don’t expect any disagreement,” he said.

A total of five people, including both students and staff, had been to Hubei province in the past 14 days, he said.

This ranged from the primary school level upwards.

Meanwhile, schools will reopen as usual after the Chinese New Year break.

Daily temperature-taking exercises will be held, with staff and students monitored for flu-like symptoms.

“Parents should seek immediate medical attention for their children if unwell, and ensure that their children recover fully before they return to school for classes,” said MOE in a statement on Facebook.

Mr Lee added that preschool operators should provide paid leave of absence for affected staff, and continue to monitor their health.

There are a total of 25,000 preschool staff and 180,000 preschool children, Mr Lee said.

An estimated 500 to 600 staff and 1,000 children would have gone to China in the past 14 days.

“I apologise for the inconvenience that this may cause to our parents, preschoolers, preschool operators and staff,” he said in a Facebook post.

“We seek your understanding and support for these measures to keep our community, our families and our children safe and healthy.”

Mr Ong said three hostels have been designated as government quarantine facilities.

These are Prince George’s Park Residences at the National University of Singapore, Hall 1 at the Nanyang Technological University, and the Singapore Management University’s Prinsep Street Residences.

Students have been asked to move out so that the facilities can be readied for potential use.

Foreign students will stay in different hostels, while local students are being encouraged to go home.

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